Author Archives: Nathalie Marcus

About Nathalie Marcus

Nathalie Marcus is a bilingual (French and English) editorial consultant for print books, ebooks, and audiobooks. As an audiobook producer, she finds the voice actors to narrate the books, sets the production schedules, and oversees the postproduction and auditing (quality assurance) of the final products. She holds a PhD in French literature from the University of Virginia.

Finally: Scrivener for iOS

If you are a writer, LiteratureAndLatte.com has taken steps to ensure that you never have an excuse not to write again.

New Scrivener for iOS allows you to organize your thoughts, research, and write on your iPad and on your iPhone. And to share everything that you do between your devices — computer included — through Dropbox.

We are talking the power of Scrivener in your back pocket.

Wait, You’ve Never Heard of Scrivener?

This blog post is about the long-awaited iOS version of many writers’ favorite writing tool — Scrivener has existed for Mac and Windows for several years. If you already know Scrivener, you can skip down to “Life before Scrivener for iOS.” Otherwise, read on…

So what is Scrivener? It’s an app developed by a writer for writers. Keith Blount, the creator, forged Scrivener while writing his dissertation — he felt there had to be a better way to compose on a computer, and so he coded a better way for all writers. (To learn more about the Scrivener story and the people who built it and continue to improve it, check out literatureandlatte.com.)

Life before Scrivener

I still feel vaguely dizzy when I remember the multiple organizational systems I devised for my dissertation. Somewhere in storage there might still be a plastic box of index cards that meticulously outlined multiple chapters and their subsections (and sub-subsections…). I recently found a diskette (you know, that little square thing we used to anxiously slide into computers to save our hard work) with hundreds of pages of notes — copiously highlighted in different colors to label which part of my dissertation they applied to.

At one point, I also printed out a lot of those highlighted notes and put them in a binder with equally well color-coded stick-it notes so that I could quickly flip to what I needed when composing on my computer.

What if I had been able to have that magical binder with all its subsections neatly labeled on my computer screen, each item just a click or two away…

I won’t even get into the copying, cutting, and pasting between Word docs to move paragraphs to another chapter.

What if I’d had a huge virtual dining room table for my plethora of index cards so that I could easily move them around and rearrange the contents of my project directly in the master document — sans cutting and pasting.

CorkBoard2

This is me moving a card on my Scrivener corkboard — and moving that part of my blog post to a new position in the master document.

In other words, move an index card and that whole section moves to a new location in your draft. With just one drag of the mouse (see image to the left).

My dissertation would certainly have taken less time (and been that much more brilliant…).

This, my friends, is what the Scrivener app on your computer can do. It is all the pieces of your writing project in one place, arranged in whatever hierarchy you need, with an outline/table of contents called a “binder” and virtual corkboard for all the pieces you are working with.

Plus about 100 other things.

Life before Scrivener for iOS

I first started using Scrivener a couple of years ago on my aging laptop for NaNoWriMo. Six months later my computer let me know that it wanted to retire. I wasn’t in a position to buy a new laptop but did get an iPad mini for my creative projects. (I did all my Invisible Order work on a desktop—yep, still got one of those.)

However, to my disappointment (and to the detriment of the story brewing on my old laptop), Scrivener only existed for computer. I searched for an app to replace Scrivener for my iPad and found Index Card, which is a very descent app and did a lot for me (I love moving virtual index cards around). But what I needed was the Scrivener binder — that virtual, more flexible version of my magical dissertation binder.

TheBinder3

This is the binder! It has folders and everything!

A Binder in Your Pocket

The Scrivener binder serves as a table of contents for your project. For all parts of your project — even your research.

I find it incredibly helpful to have the binder right there on the screen at all times while I am composing. I can easily check my outline, click into another chapter, or go foraging in my research folders. And then just as quickly get back to the section I was working on.

This is ideal for the “plotter” (someone who meticulously outlines their project before and during the writing process). You can map out your project right there in the binder, through folders and pages, moving things around on the corkboard or directly in the binder.

The binder is also great for the “pantser” (who writes by the seat of her pants and doesn’t have a precise map) because you can organize the material as you go along.

Having this tool on a small device that you can easily carry around — and that will upload your material to Dropbox in order to share it with your other devices — allows for an amazing amount of flexibility. You just need to make sure the latest version of your project has backed up before you start working on it.

Imagine walking down the street and suddenly realizing that you are stuck in your story because, really, chapter 3 should start with what is now the beginning of chapter 5. You don’t have to wait until you get home to act on that flash of insight: just open the app on your iPhone and within a few swipes, your story has rebooted.

One of the Neat Tools in Scrivener for iOS

Scrivener for iOS offers a multitude of tools to help you get your project finished.

StuckAtTheBottom2One little tool I love (among many others) keeps me from being stuck writing at the bottom of the iPad screen. When I started using writing apps for iPad I kept having to scroll up the screen so that I could actually see what I was writing. Sometimes the apps would get stuck, and I would have to leave my document and come back in order to see what I had just written at the bottom of the screen.

Not so for Scrivener. Look at the top of the screenshot to the left. See the T in the circle? Activate that T (see below) and Scrivener will automatically keep you typing at the middle of the screen — moving the screen up with a little jolt that reminds some of us of that satisfying jump and click a typewriter would make when you progressed to the next line and the roll turned your piece of paper up. (The “T” stands for “typewriter scrolling.”)TypewriterMode2

You can also add footnotes.

You can also add comments.

You can also add videos to your research docs.

You can — just go check it out!

The “Downside”

I won’t go into details about what else Scrivener for iOS (and Mac and Windows, for that matter) has to offer. You can simply explore the Latte and Literature site or read one of the many other articles on the topic (just Google “Scrivener for iOS”). Or you can just get the app and start writing and discovering everything it can do for you.

There is only one downside to this app: you won’t need Facebook or Twitter or email to fill the empty moments of your day. Stuck in the subway? Waiting for a friend in a coffee shop? Time to pull out your iPhone or iPad and compose, review, or reorganize your project.

If you prefer the fantasy of the writing life to the sweat and tears of producing your next draft, then you won’t welcome Scrivener for iOS into your life: it eliminates your last excuse not to write.

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Mike Reid on Terrorism in Canada

Our own Mike Reid has been writing about last week’s tragedies in Canada. You can read his “Canadian Vengeance” over at Come Home America.

This is a sad day in Canada, presaging even sadder ones to come.

Today, an as-yet-unidentified man shot a soldier near Parliament Hill, and then rushed further, armed and aggressive, into the halls of Canadian government. He was then shot and killed himself.

Read more here…

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Proud Little Englander

(Image from Shutterstock)

(Image from Shutterstock)

Ever wonder what a “Little Englander” is? See BK Marcus’s article on how “words from Victorian England continue to haunt advocates of freedom and peace” in today’s Freeman.

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Print Edition of State of Terror Now Available!

We are pleased to announce that a print edition of John Brown’s State of Terror is now available on Amazon.

Buy now on Amazon.com.

Buy now on Amazon.com.

In the near future, there has been a series of terrorist attacks. With the War on Terror now a global conflict, the distinction between the war front and the home front has blurred. With the Homeland at war, the old rules of law and of war no longer apply. New enemies call for new tactics. Drone and satellite surveillance, warrantless search, universal electronic monitoring, internal passports, and abusive checkpoints and strip searches have become routine in the emerging National Security State. New enabling laws authorize secret courts and indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Plunged headlong into a nightmarish world of “ghost” detainees in black-site prisons is Tom Benson, a banking executive and U.S. Army veteran. Growing distant from his wife, and with his son facing conscription, his troubles start when he is mysteriously unable to cash a check. Arrested and declared an Unlawful Enemy Combatant, he endures progressively harsher “enhanced” interrogation as he struggles to regain his freedom and strike back.

State of Terror explores Benjamin Franklin’s timeless warning: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

One reviewer on Amazon writes,

The most terrifying aspect of this novel is the reality that many Americans are willing to give up essential liberties for a false sense of safety — on both “sides of the aisle.” This novel’s ideas are rooted in our day to day reality where Americans and its political leaders will try to crush those who show us how truly un-free we are, case in point: Edward Snowden. A well told “Dystopia-thriller” that will inspire readers (much like the novel’s hero Benson) to value their personal freedoms hopefully enough to fight for them.

And if you like this book as much as we think you will, please make sure to review it on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

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Check Your History

Our own BK Marcus discusses the origins of the word privilege in his most recent article for the Freeman:

(Image from Shutterstock.)

(Image from Shutterstock.)

In a recent Freeman article, “Check Your Context,” columnist Sarah Skwire brought my attention to a popular meme on the political left, both online and off: “Check your privilege.”

At its gentlest, this is advice to raise our awareness of those aspects of our personal histories that may lead to complacent assumptions about how the world works, assumptions that may limit the scope of our moral imaginations.

When it is less gentle (which is often), it is a dismissal of the opinions of anyone who is insufficiently poor, or, more likely, insufficiently left-wing.

(Read the full article here.)

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State of Terror: A Novel to Add a Chill to Your Holidays

Invisible Order is excited to announce the publication of State of Terror.

John Brown’s new thriller explores what happens when the War on Terror grows into a war on all citizens.

State of Terror-Cover

In the near future, there has been a series of terrorist attacks. With the War on Terror now a global conflict, the distinction between the war front and the home front has blurred. With the Homeland at war, the old rules of law and of war no longer apply. New enemies call for new tactics. Drone and satellite surveillance, warrantless search, universal electronic monitoring, internal passports, and abusive checkpoints and strip searches have become routine in the emerging National Security State. New enabling laws authorize secret courts and indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Plunged headlong into a nightmarish world of “ghost” detainees in black-site prisons is Tom Benson, a banking executive and U.S. Army veteran. Growing distant from his wife, and with his son facing conscription, his troubles start when he is mysteriously unable to cash a check. Arrested and declared an Unlawful Enemy Combatant, he endures progressively harsher “enhanced” interrogation as he struggles to regain his freedom and strike back.

State of Terror is now available for Kindle!

(Coming soon for iBook and Nook.)

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Trello Rocks or How Trello Helps Me Organize Everything

This post is the first in a series about websites and apps that can help writers and editors get through their projects as easily and pleasantly as possible.

Let me put it simply: I organize my life — and sometimes the lives of others — with Trello. And I really do mean my life: not only do I have boards for our company and our clients, but I also have boards for my son’s homeschool activities, our family’s weekly menus, and my various other to-dos.

A couple years ago I had been fruitlessly trying out planning systems (both old-fashioned paper ones and online apps) when a friend of mine introduced me to Trello.com, a free web-based project-management system. Trello works like a bulletin board: you “tack” and organize virtual task cards on project-specific boards. You can have as many boards as you like and they don’t take up any wall space!

Trello clicked for me immediately.

Your cards contain whatever information you need: project names, descriptions, team members assigned to the project, comments from those participating, and — my favorite! — checklists. You can also set deadlines and alarms.

SampleTrelloBoardThe boards are arranged in columns, and the site starts you off with 3 columns (To Do, Doing, Done), but you can change their titles and add more columns. Then you add cards for whatever tasks you are keeping track of. You drag and drop cards from one column to the next as a project moves from one step to another.

Or, if you are keeping track of, say, the family menu, you can set up columns for each day of the week and move meals around as needed.

Trello is both visual and tactile — well, as tactile as a web application can be. It lets you organize things and then change your mind and move things around until they are just in the order you want them. You can even move a card to a different board.

The checklists are really checklists, so when a task is finished, you can check it off and it gets crossed out.  (I am one of those people who only feels something is completely finished when I can cross it off my to-do list, so I love this — and if you are working with a team, it’s also essential to let them know what’s been taken care of.)

Need the same checklist for multiple cards? No problem! You can also copy a checklist from one card to another.

When you assign a card/task to someone, Trello adds their icon in the bottom right-hand corner — with a quick glance at a board, you can see who is supposed to be doing what.

You can also put color labels on cards to help organize different levels of urgency or different types of tasks or or or (the organizational possibilities are endless).

TrelloTeamBoardEveryone who uses Trello needs to have an account, but accounts are quick and painless to create. And once you have one, you can start sharing. Boards can be private, shared with specific people or specific teams, and they can also be public.

For example, the Trello team organizes Trello LIVE on Trello — see their “live” board here.

Recently Trello released a new feature: you can email cards to your Trello boards. I have yet to try this, but it seems like a good way to keep track of things you want to add to your list when you’re away from the computer.

When I start a new project, Trello is now the first app I open on my computer. I know it will help me organize my thoughts and all the pieces I need to keep track of and put together. Trello rocks!

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The Oxford comma: Kerouac vs. Burroughs

OxCommaKerouacVsBurroughs

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by | July 22, 2013 · 8:00 am

A PDF Is Not an Ebook or The Incredible, Moveable Ebook

CeciNestPasUnEbookThere are two common misconceptions in the blogosphere these days:

  1. that a PDF is an ebook;
  2. that a PDF can seamlessly become an ebook (MOBI for Kindle or EPUB for all other eReaders).

Let’s start with the first one: a PDF is not an ebook.

You might say, “Well, when I look at a PDF on my computer, it looks exactly like a book. It has page numbers and page headings and everything. I can even read it on my iPad.”

But the fact that you can read it on your computer or your tablet does not make it an ebook. It does indeed look like a print book. And that’s where the problem lies.

How an Ebook Redefines Moveable Type

An ebook is a text that can adjust itself to the device you use to read it and to settings you choose.

A PDF (Portable Document Format) cannot adjust itself. It is an image of a document that is always meant to look the same — the page always starts with a certain word and ends with a certain word. It has a hidden layer of code speaking to the electronic PDF reader and telling it how to display a static page — imagine an invisible grid with horizontal and vertical coordinates to place each element in a precise location.

These hidden instructions are why a PDF is not an ebook and why a PDF cannot be seamlessly changed into either of the standard ebook formats: MOBI and EPUB.

Ebooks are about flexibility — about reflow. An ebook morphs depending on what your settings are and what device you are reading on. You can change the font size, read a book in one-column view or in two columns, read the same copy of the book on your iPhone, iPad, computer, or even on your Kindle. The book needs to adapt easily to each of those devices and to how you want to read it.

When we make an ebook, we work on creating something that resembles a print book but that is malleable, transforming itself to meet the needs of the reader and the reading device.

We have to think about all the different platforms that people read on (Kindle, Nook, iBook, etc.) and the different ways readers customize their screens. I know people, for example, who have failing eyesight and who thought they would have to give up reading. Ebooks — true ebooks! — have changed their lives, because they can make the font as big as they need or even adjust the text color and contrast.

But what happens when you enlarge the font on a PDF? You can’t: you just enlarge the PDF and if you enlarge it too much, you can’t see the whole page on your screen.

You may want to say, “Well, yes, that’s true. But if I want to play with font size and read a PDF on a Kindle, I can put it through a free converter that will make an ebook for Kindle.” (I have in fact seen this as part of the sales pitch on websites selling PDFs as “ebooks.”)

That is indeed true and, occasionally, it might turn out all right. But usually it needs some help. And often a lot of help.

Why a PDF Can’t Magically Become an Ebook

This brings us to point number 2. Remember: the PDF has a hidden layer of information that gives precise instructions on how to make a page look like the printed page of the book. These instructions are useless for the eReaders because an eReader does not want to make a static page.

In fact, the program you use to make an ebook out of a PDF will not know what to do with most of those instructions. Computer programs are useful tools, but it is very hard to create one that can catch all the complexities involved in translating a PDF into an ebook.

Here are some examples of conversion oddities that we regularly encounter.

(1) Mysterious Text

The other day I started creating an ebook out of a PDF. I had put my document through the first step of the process and was going through the text to see just how much needed to be fixed when I came upon what seemed to be a random list of geographical places:

English Channel

England

France

Spain

Atlantic

Mediterranean

Africa

Having no idea why the list was where it was, I looked at the PDF as a reference. It turns out that the list had originally been words labeling different parts of a map. The PDF maker had layered the names of places on top of the image of a map. When I extracted the text from the PDF to create the ebook (and thus temporarily removed images), the names that had been layered onto the map were left all on their lonesome, referring to nothing and not knowing how to position themselves on the screen.

(2) The Ebook vs. the Typesetter

Think about what typesetters do: they do not let words fall randomly on a page to create a book. They are, after all, setting the type. Typesetters have to think about things like widows (the last word or last few words of a paragraph printed alone at the beginning of a new page or column) and orphans (the first line of a paragraph starting at the very end of a page or column), and when they are confronted with widows and orphans, they manipulate the page to get rid of them. And this becomes part of the PDF’s code.

When translated into ebooks, the mechanisms used to avoid widows and orphans turn into strange spaces between paragraphs or into paragraphs that start on the same line the previous paragraph ended:

Be good enough, honourable deputies, to take our request seriously, and do not reject it without at least hearing the reasons that we have to advance in its support.                                                                                     First, if you shut off as much as possible all access to natural light, and thereby create a need for artificial light, what industry in France will not ultimately be encouraged?

(3) Ran-dom Hyphens

Ever read an ebook and found a word with a ran-dom hyphen in the middle? It’s not just a typo.

Sometimes a word at the end of a line of text is too long and is continued on the next line. To let you know that the word is interrupted, the typesetter (or word processor) adds a soft hyphen at the end of the line — or sometimes the typesetter (or program) makes a mistake and adds a regular (hard) hyphen instead.

A soft hyphen is meant to stay in a word only if it is interrupted at the end of a line. Systems converting PDFs into ebooks don’t always know what to do with these and will often just turn them into hard hyphens. Thus, even if the word is not shared between two lines, it still has a hyphen in it.

For more on the when and why of ligatures, check out I Love Typography's "The Decline and fall of the ligature."

For more on the when and why of ligatures, check out I Love Typography’s “The Decline and fall of the ligature.”

 

(4) Ligatures

Printed books and their PDFs often have something called ligatures. A ligature is actually a combination of two letters that would otherwise look awkward next to each other. For example, f and i are often slurred together to avoid the awkward juxtaposition of the tip of the f and the dot of the i.

But an ebook converter won’t necessarily know what to do with ligatures and instead you’ll get a hyphen in the middle of a word, or a strange vertical line, or even a question mark to replace the ligature that once represented two letters.

These are only a few examples of why many ebook makers prefer to manually go through a text that is being converted from PDF to ebook: there are too many little details for a converting program to catch, and so the human eye is still vital in the process.

Think about how far we are from Gutenberg’s moveable type: a PDF may remind us of the beautiful, static pages Gutenberg offered the Western world, but the ebook redefines the notion of “moveable” type — with a well-made ebook (and often “handmade” ebook), each reader can move the type to create his own version of the text.

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Humane and Pro-Growth #1 Emigration & Immigration Law on Amazon

HumaneAndPro-GrowthBestsellerThis past Monday, Reason released Humane and Pro-Growth: A Reason Guide to Immigration Reform (prepared for electronic publication by Invisible Order). And today it is the #1 bestseller sold in the Amazon category “Emigration and Immigration Law.”

Congratulations to editor Shikha Dalmia and the Reason writers!

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